Learning Who You Really Are
That was wonderful, I pause to allow them to have a chance to sit down, so I could look at them and praise what they’ve done. That was wonderful, wonderful beginning.
My dear brothers and sisters, I am honored by the invitation to speak with you today. You are part of a great school, a school honored and respected by the Lord’s living prophets. I have personally heard them praise it as a unique and treasured part of the Church Educational System. As nearly as I can discern, those praises come because of the exceptional nature of the students who choose to study here and the teachers who have been drawn to this place. These qualified teachers understand the true nature and hearts of their students and so encourage them to rise toward their great potential.
My hope is that you students and teachers will receive the help that came to me when I was a struggling student and when I was a new teacher. That help came first when, as an undergraduate, I was not only struggling but also beginning to feel that I was trying to learn something that was completely beyond me. The more I felt overwhelmed, the less I could sustain my efforts to keep trying.
This first happened long ago as I sought to learn physics and mathematics in my college years. I felt overwhelmed. It seemed to me that the other students could work the problems and master the material more quickly than I could. During examinations, I’ve had experiences that I think you’ve had. I would start with the first question. When I couldn’t see how to answer it, I would think, “well, I’ll go on to the next question.” I still remember the feeling of fear, really terror when I got to the last question and realized that I didn’t know how to do and answer any of them.
As time wore on, my discouragement led me to feel that it was useless to study. I began to play a little more basketball or I forgot what I did. I begin to think of quitting, and doing something easier.
It was on a night during that time of discouragement when I received the help that made all the difference for me. I can remember it as if it had just happened. Help came as a voice, an actual voice in my mind. It was not my voice. It was a soft and loving voice—but firm. The words voiced were these: “When you realize who you really are, you will be sorry that you didn’t try harder.”
I didn’t know then all that those words meant. I probably don’t know yet. But I knew then what to do. I went to work. I felt that I must have more ability to learn than I could see in myself. That knowledge kept me hard at work through my college years, in graduate school, and then as a teacher when it seemed still that everyone was smarter than I was, that they could do things I couldn’t do.
I began to try to understand that message of encouragement. By pondering and working during the years that followed, I came to realize who I really was. I was a spirit child of God. I had inherent in me the potential to learn what He knows. Because of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ and my faith in Him, my sins could be washed away—first in the waters of baptism and then through continuing repentance. Thus, I could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as a companion. And I came to know that by the power of the Holy Ghost, we may know the truth of all things.
Now, I know you’re smiling, you may reasonably ask, “Well, once you knew who you who really were and had the Holy Ghost as your companion, could you solve every physics problem and resolve every mathematical puzzle?”
An the true answer is, “Of course not.” But with the help of the Holy Ghost, I did learn how to learn things that were beyond my natural ability. I can remember in fact, reading in a physics text. I was gonna bring it here today to show you, I was puzzling over a set of equations. By the way, it was in thermodynamics, and it was by Sr. James Jeans, that doesn’t mean anything to you but that little book – I wish I should’ve brought here to show it to you. Because I remember, I read those equations, I could even show you in the book the equations, and they didn’t make any sense to me. But then, a feeling came into my heart. I knew that they were true, with exactly the same feeling that comes to me when I read passages in the Book of Mormon.
That didn’t make all physics clear to me. But it confirmed two things that have forever helped me try harder to learn. First, the Lord knows all truth—in physics and in everything else I needed to learn. Second, if I live worthy of the Holy Ghost, I can learn true things beyond my human ability. That gave me the confidence to keep trying harder even when the learning was difficult.
From my experience, I urge you to look upon your educational struggles as a great blessing. I know school can be a grind. I know it seems difficult. I know you get discouraged at times. I know you wonder why you are attending school at all. But keep on. Keep on hammering away. Keep on learning. You will never regret learning—neither in this life, nor in the world to come. Indeed, you will treasure forever what you learn and what you learn about how to keep on learning.
As children of God, we’ve been given another marvelous promise: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
That remarkable statement speaks of growth, of development, of the journey that leads toward godhood. It goes hand in hand with wonderful declarations that I will share today. The Lord teaches that we are to continue to grow and never tire in our efforts to learn, that we never give up, that we keep trying harder to learn, and that we follow the divinely given mandate to go on adding to our knowledge.
Here is the encouragement He gave in the early days of the restored Church. He spoke to the students and teachers in what was then called the School of the Prophets:
“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; …
“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
You may think that such a lofty description of learning doesn’t apply to you today or to the learning you will experience the rest of your life. But it was helpful to me when I was your age. It is helpful to me now. And it will be helpful to me in the years ahead. It applies to any disciple of Jesus Christ who is learning in the Lord’s way. Here is the Lord’s promise and encouragement:
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. …
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
“A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.”
So, our challenge yours and mine is to be diligent and obedient so that the Holy Ghost can stay with us and magnify our powers to learn. I would like to suggest four ways in which you might be diligent and obedient and receive the blessing of having the Holy Ghost upon you so that He can tarry with you in your efforts to learn.
First, pray always. You know from your experience that when you become casual in your prayers, you feel less inspiration. When you pray with faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit comes to you. You have also learned that when you pray less often and with less faith in the Savior, your desire to pray diminishes. So, don’t wait for a desire to pray to come to you. Decide to pray, even when it is hard—especially when it is hard and the windows of heaven seem closed to you. If you keep trying, those windows will open.
“It matters not whether you or I feel like praying,” said President Brigham Young. “When the time comes to pray, pray. If we do not feel like it, we should pray till we do.”
Second, feast on the word of God. President Russell M. Nelson’s challenge to the women of the Church to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year is precious educational advice—for you men too and for me. That book of scripture is filled with testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the reality of His Atonement. Your reading in that book invites the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, to come to you. As you pray, you can invite the Father to send the Holy Ghost to testify again that the book truly is given of God. He always grants that request. And the Spirit will come as your companion. I found that reading in the Book of Mormon was the best part of my preparation for every examination in which I needed power to remember what I had tried hard to learn.
I came to know the truth of the Lord’s promise: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Third, keep the commandments. The sacramental prayer makes clear that obedience to the Lord’s commandments is a requirement to have the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”
Obedience to God’s commandments invites the influence of the Holy Ghost. Disobedience brings a feeling of darkness and discouragement as a certain result. Missionaries and mission presidents have long known the connection between obedience and the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We read in Preach My Gospel, you remember well: “When we obey God, we follow the influence of the Spirit and choose to conform to His will. Obedience to the commandments brings us peace in this life and eternal life and exaltation in the world to come.” And it surely brings us a heart open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We further know that “obedience is the first law of heaven.” We are taught that “as you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom.” When we disobey, we weaken our faith, we forget our knowledge, and we cloud our wisdom. Remember the words of Alma to his son Helaman: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.” And remember Jacob’s words to the Nephites: “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”
Fourth, serve others for the Lord. I’ve learned that service brings inspiration. That was the case as I faced my final oral examination for a doctoral degree at Harvard. It was scheduled on a Monday. On Saturday and Sunday before the exam, as a member of the district presidency I ministered to the members of the Church in the little branches of New England. I might’ve spent those days preparing the answers to the questions I knew I would be asked, they had told me what those would be. Those questions seemed as daunting as the physics problems that had nearly overwhelmed me years before. But as I was driving that Sunday along a road near Foxborough, Massachusetts, there came to my mind in absolutely clearly the solution to the main exam question. It was clear and complete.
The exam that Monday was scheduled to last four hours and twenty minutes. For the first two hours, I was to present my analysis of the problem. Then, following a twenty-minute break, I had two hours to present my solution, by the way, I can remember the suit I was wearing that day, what a day that day was!
That Monday morning, I felt perfect peace and calm. I gave my analysis to the problem in less than an hour. The chairman of the committee said he knew that there was supposed to be a break for twenty minutes. “But,” he said with a smile, “we are so interested in your analysis of the problem, we can’t wait to hear your solution.” So there was no break.
Less than an hour later, the chairman of the examining committee announced, without any discussion with the members of the committee, that I had passed the exam. They all stood to shake my hand. While they were thanking me for my performance, I was silently thanking heaven for another verification of the promise of the Lord:
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Through that happy educational experience, and many others, I have learned that the Holy Ghost is sent to us as we obey God’s laws. With the influence of the Holy Ghost, we can learn things, know things, and do things beyond our personal powers.
So, I give this counsel to you, as I do to myself. Believe that we have a divine mandate to go on learning for as long as we live and then into eternity. Believe that the Father can send us the Holy Ghost, who is the Spirit of Truth. Be patient and persistent in learning. With the help of the Holy Ghost, and by learning line upon line as we are diligent in our efforts and full of faith in Jesus Christ, we will be able to accomplish much more than we thought possible.
The help we receive will depend upon our motives for learning. If our hearts are set on serving the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and on serving others for Them, the Spirit will be sent as our companion. If our motive to love God and others continues, the Holy Ghost will tarry with us. And the power to learn will persist and, in time, increase.
A young man came to this school many years ago to learn shorthand. He thought that skill would help him in his employment. I have no doubt that the Spirit was sent to assist him. He excelled in that program, as he did in his professional life. The usefulness of shorthand proved less valuable to him than his increased ability to learn new things, including learning new things by the Spirit. The Lord knew his increased power to receive revelation from God would bless people across the earth and into the spirit world. And so it has.
You also will receive help in your learning here at LDS Business College. The Lord knows that in the future, your greater ability to learn to listen to the Spirit and receive inspiration will bless others beyond your imagination. So, gain and grow that ability while you are here. Let that divine process remain part of your ongoing education long after you close the textbook at the end of your last class. I know that can happen for you. If you are to raise a righteous family and protect those you love in the days ahead, it must happen for you. President Nelson has so counseled. He has told us:
“I am optimistic about the future. It will be filled with opportunities for each of us to progress, contribute, and take the gospel to every corner of the earth. But I am also not naive about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.”
“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”
You may already be blessed with a spouse and children of your own. Creating a place of gospel learning in your home is a sacred trust that can bless generations. You have a wonderful opportunity to grow in your power to be true to that trust while you are in this school. Learn how to replicate for others in your family what you experience here.
You must begin early in the lives of your children to introduce them to great books, noble people, and important ideas. The mother and father who fail to read to and who fail to teach their small children do a disservice to them and a disservice to themselves. It will take time, yes—much of it. It will take diligence and self-discipline. It will take sacrifice. It will take organization. It will take budgeting the minutes and hours of each day. It will require you to think carefully about President Nelson’s suggestion that you motivate your children by setting an example for them.
That example includes avoiding addiction to social media and unworthy entertainment—in all its forms. Instead, lead your family in reading about, thinking about, and embracing, and sharing the great truths. Expose your children to inspiring ideas, to everlasting truth, and to concepts that will build and motivate them for good. As you do these things, you will invite the Holy Ghost to abide in your home and in the lives of your children and their children. They are all beloved spirit children of God. They are your most priceless possessions.
Last month during general conference, many Latter-day Saints welcomed the announcement that the Church will soon implement a two-hour Sunday meeting schedule. Those listening by the Spirit, especially parents, heard in that announcement the Lord’s call to greater responsibility. You remember President Nelson’s promised blessings to those families who embrace the opportunity for increased Sunday stewardship:
“The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.”
Now, I close in the spirit of gratitude. I am grateful for this school, I love the school and its lofty purposes. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, for His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and for the Holy Ghost, whose influence we have felt today. I am grateful for a living prophet, I was with him today, it was an experience I will never forget. I saw in him a living and true prophet of God. I bear solemn witness that Russell M. Nelson is the prophet of God in the world today. I leave you my blessing that you may ever be learning, ever “able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and ever increase, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, in the power to serve, bless, and lead others. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. See Moroni 10:5–7.
2. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 88:118–19, 124.
4. Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19, 22–23.
5. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 45; emphasis added.
6. John 14:26.
7. Doctrine and Covenants 20:77; emphasis added.
8. “Lesson 4: The Commandments,” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service, rev. ed. (2018), 9. lds.org/manual/missionary.
9. “How Do I Develop Christlike Attributes?” Preach My Gospel (2004), 122.
10. Alma 37:35.
11. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21.
12. Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018, 96.
13. Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 113.
14. 2 Timothy 3:7.